MOSCOW: The leaders of Russia, Germany and France agreed during late-night talks in Moscow to draw up a plan to end fighting in Ukraine as rebels wage a deadly offensive in the country's east, officials said today.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said that more than four hours of talks that wrapped up early today saw the leaders agree on the drafting of a blueprint that would also include proposals from Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko.
"They were substantial and constructive," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters of the talks, adding that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande left swiftly afterward.
"Work is under way to prepare the text of a possible joint document to implement the Minsk agreements," said Peskov, referring to a widely flouted truce from September.
A French official also called the talks "constructive and substantial" and said work was being done to pull together a document aimed at implementing the September truce.
The three leaders, who did not address the media after the meeting, are to discuss the effort with Ukrainian President Poroshenko by telephone tomorrow.
The European pair's talks with the Kremlin strongman were seen an attempt to prevent the 10-month conflict in east Ukraine from spilling out of control as Washington considers whether to supply weapons to Kiev.
The visit was Merkel's first to Moscow since the start of the Ukraine crisis while Hollande had made a brief stopover in December.
Ahead of the talks, Merkel played down hopes of a rapid end to the fighting that has claimed more than 5,300 lives since April.
Merkel and Hollande first flew to Kiev on Thursday for discussions, when US Secretary of State John Kerry also visited the Ukrainian capital.
Kerry is set to meet Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov at a security conference in Munich this weekend, with the high-level diplomacy seeking to resolve the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Yesterday, US Vice President Joe Biden said Ukraine was battling for survival in the face of escalating Russian military involvement.
"We, the US and Europe as a whole, have to stand with Ukraine at this moment," Biden said in Brussels.